The Splinter

One of my children recently had a splinter in his foot. Now this child is extremely sensitive to touch and pretty much all sensory inputs. He showed me the splinter. I pushed the skin slightly around it and he started crying, “Owwey Owww.”

I took a look at him and said, “Son, I’m not cutting your arm off. Do you want the splinter out, or do you want it to stay in there and keep hurting?”

He thought about it for a minute. Then he asked, “If you don’t get it out, when will it come out?”

“Well, not anytime soon. You can either let me get it out now, and it will stop hurting. Or you can leave it alone and let it keep bothering you. But if you want me to get it out, it’s gonna hurt for a minute.”

I honestly thought he was going to tell me to leave it alone, so I didn’t give him a choice. I grabbed his foot, endured the tears, and pulled the splinter out in about 30 seconds.

Once it was out, he said, “Thanks mom. It doesn’t hurt anymore.”

Imagine that. Once the splinter was out, the pain was gone. But the immediate pain of removing the splinter actually had my son considering leaving it alone.

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Come on. I know we can all relate to this. We all have that guilty pleasure, secret sin, that we know is hurting us but can’t let go of.

For some of us, it’s gossip. We get sucked into that real-life soap opera and crave the details. (more on this in a little bit…)

Maybe it’s lust. Watching those romantic comedy movies has you secretly wishing your significant other was more romantic, funnier, or better looking, so every time you are alone or bored, Netflix has you sucked into another movie.

For others, it’s food. We know that those sugary treats are no good for us, but hey no one is watching. A donut for lunch is just fine for now.

I do not know your personal struggle, but I know you have one. The Holy Spirit has slowly shown me areas in my life that need pruning. If you have been following my blog, you may recall some post about my struggle with gossip and drama. Let me just say, this is an area I continually need reeled back in on.

First, I was convicted to turn off the television. Then I was convicted to redirect conversations that do not honor those who were not present. But the next step was a hard one. I had to distance myself from people who would not respect my boundaries around drama.

“Bad company corrupts good character.” Wait God… there’s no way you were talking about them… what will people think when I distance myself from them?

Oh man! You can see my next conviction in that statement- why are you trying to please man rather than God? Whose approval do you really seek, Renee?

Obedience is rarely easy. God’s word is not something that is popular. Many people want the Bible to be a buffet that you can pick and choose from. But it’s not. It’s one big love story between God and His creation. We cannot just choose the parts of the story we want to hear.

Let me be honest, it was painful to put up those boundaries. It was even more painful to stand firm in my convictions. I literally tore myself up inside. I knew what people would think. I kept trying to convince myself that these people needed me to point them to God… But all they were doing was stealing my joy, keeping me on guard, and continually disrespecting my boundaries. Sadly, that showed me I had remove the part of my body that caused me to stumble. God gave me peace over the situation. And once I distanced myself from the company that kept dragging me back into my sin, the struggle with this particular sin lessened.

It’s no different than an alcoholic choosing to no longer go to a bar or hang out with his partying friends. If you are going to grow, you must remove the weeds that are choking your growth.

Removing things or people who are bad influences is hard. But the peace that comes from being free to walk with God is unexplainable. If you are feeling the Spirit prompting you to remove a splinter, do it. But know it won’t be easy. You will have to lean into God. You will most definitely need to ask for prayers and support from your Christian friends. It will hurt. But, if it is from the Holy Spirit, you will be better for it.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to depart into hell. “

Matthew 5:29-30

Part of the Story

My boys have gone a kick where they enjoy making books. They draw sequential pictures to their stories and occasionally add some words. Then they will assemble their books with a three-hole punch and three pieces of yarn.

Earlier today my son was sharing one of his books with me. I opened up what I assumed to be the cover and started to “read it.” He quickly corrects me flipping the book to the last page. “Mom that’s the end. Start here.”

Oh, my bad… I didn’t realize that I was starting at the end. Or that his book was assembled backwards. Nonetheless, I needed to read the book in “order.”

This got me thinking. How many times do I start in the wrong spot of a story?

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It’s easy to walk in on someone else’s story and assume I know the beginning, middle or the end. I may have one important detail; therefore, I know everything… This couldn’t be further from the truth!

For people who “know” me, it’s easy to make assumptions about who I am. You may read my blog, follow me on Facebook, or watch my family while we’re out and about. Based on all these interactions you may assume you know me or know my character. I’ll be honest, you may make some pretty accurate assumptions. But I know you may give me too much credit… or possibly not enough…

Some people may know me from high school or college. These people have a part of the story but have missed chapters that have made me who I am today. These people have a piece of the story that some people I know today do not have.  When I was younger, I was crazier. I was wild. I chased what the world had to offer. I did not really know God, and I definitely did not try to walk with Him.

Other people may not really know me, but they know someone who does know me. The stories they hear about me are filtered. Whether or not these people like me is completely dependent on the perspective of the person who claims to know me.

If I’m really honest, not many people have the full story of who I am. Parts of my story are purposely not told. Not because I do not trust you with it. Not because it is not important. But because some things have a time and place to be shared.

It does no good to share a sob story when everyone is celebrating life. It does no good to share my success while others are mourning. The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who are mourning.

I think all too often people forget to realize that everyone has a story. Everyone experiences joys and disappointments. Just because someone responds, “I’m good,” doesn’t actually mean that’s how they are doing.

There are so many days that I do that. So many days I put on my Sunday best- including a smile, and walk into Church. These days can be crazy and hectic. But as I walk into church, no one knows the story of the morning.

Like last Sunday when I had to go to the grocery store before Church. I only had 3 items to check out- but they had to be purchased before leaving for church. I had these items in the cart and ready to check out in less than 5 minutes… But I got in line at 8:57… three minutes before Schnucks will sell alcohol.  Guess what the four people in front of me were trying to purchase… beer, liquor, wine, and wine coolers. I guess the cashier decided to scan the alcohol before nine o’clock, so when the first person in line tried to pay, he was unable to do so. Instead of re-scanning the items, they decide to wait. Well, at 9:05… now 8 minutes after I had been standing in line… she calls a manager. This manger cannot figure out what’s going on. So more waiting. And more waiting. And finally the four people in front of me check out with their adult beverages. I can check out. But the cashier decides she needs to talk to the lady at the next counter about what just happened. Here I am- trying really hard to stay patient with my six children in and beside the cart. Knowing I have to be at church- 30 minutes away- in 40 minutes.

I am frustrated. I just want to leave. My time feels wasted. I feel rushed. But I am holding it all together. I turn on my Jesus Jams and head to church. As soon as I get to church, I start smiling at everyone and telling them I am good. I am good. I just had a rough morning. It’s part of the story that feels inappropriate to tell even my mother-in-law sitting beside me.

Every single person at church had a morning story. I bet some of them had a happy breakfast with their families. I’m sure someone overslept. I’m also positive someone else felt rushed. Me- I had a frustrating shopping trip.

We are all human. We all have stories that do not feel worthy of being shared. Share them anyways. Someone can relate. But more than that, we are the body of Christ. If I am feeling off, it is important to ask someone to pray for me. They don’t need all the details about why it was frustrating (we need to avoid gossiping and putting down others), but there really is something powerful about knowing you are not alone. What is even more powerful is inviting God our heavenly Father into the situation. He cares and wants to be apart of it, but God will not force His way into it. Invite Him in and watch what a difference it will make.

Remember we all struggle. We all fall short. We all have days where we feel like we are on top of the world, and then days where nothing seems to work in our favor. But as sisters and brothers in Christ, it is important to ask each other for prayer and support. We do no have to do life alone.

One of the most amazing realizations I had, was when my husband and I were sharing our early marriage struggles with another Christian couple. They laughed at each other and then said, “What do you think we used to do?”   I don’t know what they did- I wasn’t there for that part of their story. But those few words lifted a burden off me. I wasn’t alone. We weren’t alone. They’ve been there. They got through it. We can get through it too.

So don’t judge someone based on the part of the story you know. But more than that, be willing to share parts of your story that may not be glamorous, so that others can see the hope you have in Christ! You never know how much a simple, “I’ve been there,” can change a person’s outlook.

 

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am.”

Matthew 18:20

 

 

 

Thank God He’s Not Like the Weatherman

I’ve lived in St. Louis for the last nine years, and something happened for the very first time this month… The weatherman got the snow forecast right!!! Granted the snow forecast for St. Louis was 2-10 inches of snow… but we actually got what was predicted.

People in St. Louis really do not count on the weatherman’s predictions. This is why schools do not close until the morning of the snow. People who live outside St. Louis probably think, “St. Louis? Oh, the Midwest- they’re used to all the snow- right?” WRONG!!!

We rarely get snow that actually covers the grass. Instead we get bitter cold winds and icy roads. Please remember- this is the first time in 9 years that the predication was accurate!!! (Unless they were simply calling for a dusting…) So, for those of you not from St. Louis, let me tell you how it works.

A few days before: Snow is in the forecast.

                   Yeah right? I’ll believe it when I see it.

2 days before: Snow is still in the forecast.

                   Maybe I’ll go to the store for my French toast supplies- milk, eggs, and bread. But  I still don’t think it will snow.

The day before: Snow is still in the forecast.

                  Go to the store along with everyone else in the area to get French toast supplies only to find out they are out of milk or eggs.

Day of the predicted snow:

                      Oh, snow did fall… barely… but the roads are covered in ice. Better listen to the radio and not go out unless I have to… even once the roads are cleared… stay inside where it is warm.

Unless you are my husband… then you will take your truck out and spin circles                   on an empty interstate because you can…

Winter in St. Louis is interesting for sure. You never know what you are going to get.

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Praise God that He is not like our weatherman! When God speaks, His people should listen.  We can be sure that He is faithful, and His words are true! The Bible is full of God’s promises and His plans to fulfill all those promises.

Just to name a few: Noah- to never flood the Earth again, Abraham- His descendants would be a numerous as the stars, Moses- He would deliver Israel out of slavery, David- to establish his throne.

I am sure that Abraham and Sarah probably felt like God was like our weatherman while waiting for their promised child. Our weatherman was a little vague about the snow fall. 2-10 inches is a huge difference. They were promised a son, but when? They were unsure. Though they tried to get their son through their own scheming, God had a plan. And God did come through at an unexpected time. He gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age for HIS glory!

But God’s promises are not limited to the characters in the Bible. He extends promises to us as well!

After man fell in the Garden of Eden, God had a plan to restore creation. That plan was Jesus Christ. Jesus came to Earth as a baby to fulfill the promise God made to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, “ I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.”

God was talking about Jesus! From the beginning He had a plan to save us from ourselves! Because of the work Jesus did for us on the cross, we can have eternal life with God! But there’s even more- we can be in relationship with God while we are living on Earth through the Holy Spirit!

It can be so easy to fall in the traps of the world. The world says build yourself up. The world says you need more stuff- more money, more possession, more, more, more. The world tells you to keep chasing. But Hebrew 13:5 says, “5Keep your lives free from the love of money. Be happy with what you have…” God has said, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

If we have Christ, we have all we need.

We don’t have to wonder if God is telling the truth-we know He is! For those who have accepted Christ, we have the Holy Spirit residing in us! A promise fulfilled and a gift to us all!

God has started a good work in you, and He is faithful to see it out to completion. Trust him.

 

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1

 

The Indication Light

Last Friday my kids had a doctor’s appointment. Since my morning was a little out of routine, it really didn’t surprise me that I forgot my cell phone at home. Oh well, I figured. I will be home in an hour, and I probably won’t even miss a call.

I really didn’t even notice the missing cell phone until I was driving home. Suddenly, I heard my dash beep at me. My natural response was- gas light. But as I looked down I was surprised to see not the gas light, and not the check engine light, but an indication light that I was unsure of. I glanced at my dash and read- Service Stability. What was that!?!

Clueless, I held the wheel a little tighter and decided to take a more direct route home. Usually I take a route that includes 3 interstate exchanges from South County to North County. The way I chose to go only had one interstate change. As I changed interstates, my dash light went off… Odd…

I got home and googled it. It really is no big deal- Service Stability just means that the traction control is disabled, and my anti-lock brakes wouldn’t have worked.

But unaware of that, I was extra cautious and chose a different direction.

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There have definitely been times in my life that the Holy Spirit has worked in similar ways. Little warnings that I do not fully understand. Routes changed, plans altered for reasons I cannot understand. However, I trust these changes are in my best interest.

The most obvious example of this came about 5 years ago. I was reading a book called You Were Made for God Sized Dreams by Holley ­­­Gerth.  I honestly cannot tell you what that book was about or how far I made it into the book. As I read the book I kept thinking, “I want to stay at home with my kids,” and, “I want more kids.” I had to put the book down.

Those thoughts made no sense. Five years ago, we had just had a surprise baby #3. My husband and I had planned on having two children- that’s it. But then God gently showed us His plans are far better than ours by giving us Grace (baby #3.)

Now here I was reading this book, wanting to have more kids, and wanting to stay at home with them. At the time I was teaching in a private school near our home. Our oldest was getting ready to start kindergarten, and we would finally be able to take advantage of the benefit of free tuition to this school. Quitting my job would mean losing an income and not being able to afford private school while we lived in a failing public school district. I had to be out of my mind. But I couldn’t shake it.

I picked up that book to read a few more times, and every time I had the exact same thoughts. Finally, I put the book on the shelf and told my husband I can’t read it. He inquired as to why and I explained, “All I can think when I read this is I want another child, and I want to stay at home with the kids.”

To my surprise when he asked why, all I could say was, “I don’t know. Maybe to get more souls into heaven.”

He looked at me and said, “Ok. I don’t know how we will do it, but let’s do it.” He recognized that God was speaking to me and placing this dream in my heart. Even though I still thought it was nuts! We were soon pregnant with baby #4 and trying to figure out how it would be possible for me to stay at home with the kids.

God made a way for this God given dream to come true. As we started this journey, we realized the obstacles in our way of education pointed to a path I had never really considered- homeschooling. As we started homeschooling, I quickly realized what a good fit it was for our family.

Somehow our finances stretched. We learned how to budget, and our income seemed to reach even further. Honestly, somehow making less money seemed like we had more. We were paying attention to how we were spending and using the money we had wisely. I never felt like we were going without. God provided work for my husband and the resources to help us be smart with our money.

It was like God was saying to me, “Your plans may be good, but my plans are better.” For reasons I cannot explain I picked up a book at a book store that I didn’t even finish, but the Holy Spirit used it as an indication light on the dashboard. This light made me consider going down a path I never would have considered otherwise. But now that I am on this path, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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*As I was rereading this post to edit, the VeggieTales movie “Josh and The Big Wall” came to mind. So I pulled out my kids’ VeggieTales comic book in order to quote this properly.

Now this is Junior talking to the Israelites who are debating whether or not to follow Joshua and march around the city of Jericho.  “I know God’s directions don’t always make sense to us. It didn’t make sense when God told us to walk through the Red Sea. But He brought us across safely. There was no food to eat in the desert, but God gave us Manna to eat. Sometimes God asks us to do things that don’t make sense to us. But His way is the best way.”

The Bible is full of characters obeying the call that most likely made no sense to them.  Can you even imagine being Noah’s wife? Sure, honey a big flood is coming. What about Sarah? Yes God, I believe you will give me a son when I am way beyond my child-bearing age. (I hope you can sense the sarcasm I am typing.) What’s great about these women is they didn’t know the big picture, they couldn’t see it, but they followed their husbands and were obedient to the call.

Ultimately, we are His workmanship. He started a good work in us and is faithful to see it out to completion. Even though we cannot see it, we can trust that God’s way is the best way!

So if there’s an indication light going off for you, pray about it! Talk to a godly person you trust. Take the steps in obedience. Trust God’s plan! His plans are the best plans!

“As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30) (2 Samuel 22:31)